There’s barrel aging. There’s resting a composed cocktail in glass to let complex flavors marry. Then there’s what Lago’s doing. Chef Julian Serrano’s new Italian small-plates concept in Bellagio has a specialty Negroni unlike any other in the city at the property that was an early adopter of the idea of barrel aging. Made with Campari, Cinzano sweet vermouth, Cynar artichoke bitter and Bellagio’s private-label Woodford Double Oak bourbon—OK, so it’s actually a Boulevardier like no other—the Serrano Negroni ($16) is aged in a 15-liter goatskin bota, a Spanish wineskin bag that was first seasoned with Cognac. As the volume gets lower, assistant beverage director Ricardo Murcia and his team top it off with fresh ingredients to temper the powerful leather tannins and the pungency of the Cynar. And, because Serrano wanted an edible element to each of his cocktails in the Spanish tradition of the tapa, the Negroni is garnished with a chorizo-wrapped caper berry.
As served at Lago in Bellagio $16
Not Leather Aged
In a mixing glass, add 1 ounce Woodford Double Oak bourbon, 1/2 ounce Cynar artichoke bitter, 1/2 ounce Cinzano sweet vermouth and 1 ounce Campari. Add ice, stir for about 30 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a caper berry wrapped in a slice of chorizo.
Fill a 15-liter leather bota (not plastic lined; look for a raw suede interior) with 4 liters of Woodford Double Oak bourbon, 2 liters of Cynar artichoke bitter, 2 liters of Cinzano sweet vermouth and 4 liters of Campari for a total of 12 liters (the open space is intentional). Seal the bota and let it rest, tasting every couple of days until desired flavor is achieved. To stop the process, drain the bota, double-strain the contents and seal in glass decanters for storage and use. Or, to continue the aging, as the level inside the bota drops from serving drinks, top off the bota with fresh ingredients in the same 2:1:1:2 ratio.